Little box can store, play 100 CDs

Music: Personal Jukebox 100 holds the MP3 equivalent of 100 compact discs, but will set you back $800.

January 31, 2000|By Kasey Jones | Kasey Jones,Sun Staff

As MP3 music players have proliferated, many consumers have been reluctant to invest in yet another music format. And with most of these gadgets limited to about an hour of music, I've seen no need to give up my personal CD player.

HanGo's Personal Jukebox 100 (www.pjbox.com) addresses the problem of too little storage in a big way. The 3-inch-by-6-inch device holds the equivalent of 100 compact discs.

The secret is a 4.8-gigabyte hard drive. Combine that with pretty good sound and a relatively small package, and I'm ready to whip out the gold card, which is what you'll need to buy it.

The PJB-100 is not cool-looking. It's a clunky black box about the size of a VHS cassette, and at 9.9 ounces, much heavier. It's too big to be a Walkman-like device. Even though the unit comes with a carrying case that hooks to your belt, don't try jogging with it -- your pants will be down around your knees by the end of the block.

You'll also need a fairly high-powered computer to convert your CD tracks to compressed MP3 files and transfer them to the PJB-100. Minimum specs: 200 MHz processor, 64 MB of RAM, 50 MB hard disk space, Windows 98 and a USB port.

Once you've installed the bundled Jukebox Manager software on your PC, you can copy your CDs onto the PJB-100 at the rate of 12 minutes per disc. If your PC is connected to the Internet while you're copying a CD, the software will query the massive, online CD Data Base (www. cddb.com) and add the title, artist and track titles to the Jukebox's index. You can also copy MP3 files from your computer to the PJB-100. The device has a clear, easy-to-navigate LCD with controls that allow you to create playlists and delete tracks you don't like.

The PJB's sound is fine for casual listening but won't excite audiophiles. With this machine, it's quantity that matters: In a small package, you can carry your whole CD collection -- or at least a good chunk of it -- on road trips, vacations, to work, anywhere. The rechargeable battery lasts about 10 hours, and the unit comes with an AC adapter, Koss headphones and car cassette adapter.

Everyone at the office who tried the PJB-100 loved it -- until they heard the price.

The Personal Jukebox 100 sells for $800. With a high-quality Walkman or CD player available for less than $100, it's hard to justify that kind of money for a new music format. But if carting around the bulk of your music collection is important to you, right now, this is the only player available.

Several prototypes of similar devices were on display at this month's Consumer Electronic Show and more high-storage MP3 players should be available by summer. (Read about some of them at www.zdnet.com/zdtv/freshgear/ces2000.)

By next holiday season, the price of all of them might be more reasonable.

Send e-mail to kasey.jones@baltsun.com

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